PREPARATIONS are underway for what is fast becoming a Bendigo Football Netball League delegation's annual pilgrimage to India.
It follows the success of last November's trip to Kolkata, where representatives from the Golden Square and Strathfieldsaye football clubs and Bendigo community provided assistance to the fledgling AFL India organising team for their annual national championships.
The trips are the realisation of a dream for Golden Square Football and Netball Club chaplain Bruce Claridge.
The country Victorian manager of Sports Chaplaincy Australia said he aimed to provide Bendigo footballers with a positive international alternative to the traditional "end of season footy trip”.
Last year's delegation included Golden Square footballer Jake Donegan and Strathfieldsaye fitness adviser Mick Talbot, from Step into Life Bendigo.
Claridge said both had represented their clubs and the BFNL exceptionally well, and built great relationships with the teams from all states of India.
"The team also introduced footy to the kids of the Mominpore slum in Kolkata and a village in a rural part of the Kolkata area,"he said.
"For these young people and their families the team provided a welcome change from the routines of their simple lives and a chance to learn a game that for some could give them an opportunity to experience new opportunities in both sport and life.
"Jake made so many connections that he hopes to return to India before the next team arrives so he can build on those relationships prior to the championships."
The next trip will be the BFNL's third to India. It is planned for January 2017.
An information night has been organised for Wednesday, June 15, at the Rifle Brigade Hotel upstairs conference room.
As part of last year's delegation, a new van, funded by money raised in Bendigo, was presented to a young Indian pastor in Kaushik Das and his team to to help them transport the kids of the slum to sporting, cultural and educational opportunities in other parts of Kolkata.
Claridge said there was also now many young Indian aspiring Aussie Rules footballers sporting apparel provided by the BFNL as reward for outstanding performances in the national championships," Claridge said.
"One of aims is to continue this relationship with our Indian friends and to further look at ways we can help them develop in their understanding of our game," he said.
"We would also love to have some of their better players come to Bendigo and learn the game by spending time with one of our BFNL teams and learn about our “Aussie” culture.
It is also hoped that in August 2017 when the International AFL Cup is played in Melbourne that the Indian team will be able to be based in Bendigo and also play a couple of their games on the QEO."
The information night starts at 7.30pm.
For information contact Bruce Claridge on 0412 478 744.
One of aims is to continue this relationship with our Indian friends and to further look at ways we can help them develop in their understanding of our game.- Bruce Claridge
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